Tag Archives: God’s will

Why Men Like to Gaze Toward their Navel Region

Every young boy will someday wear a man’s body.  Whether he ever makes it to manhood remains another story.

In many cultures, the rite of passage functions to create and shape a population of men who are deeply in touch with the ancient rivers of man-wisdom.  Such wisdom flows through our collective memory. In many cases, the rite temporarily transports a boy from mother-nurture into the margins of society where pride can be replaced with confidence.   In the wilderness, the elders of the community impart the wisdom and expectations of manhood into the boys.  Through different experiences and stories, the elders pass on the instincts that should help the young ones emerge into manhood equipped for a variety of experiences.  When they return, their mothers (co-conspirators with the rite), demand that the elders introduce this new man to her.  She recognizes the face of her boy, but she knows him not.

In most places inhabited by the descendants of Europe, we have all but lost a rite of passage.  There are sports and hunting, but sense tells us that those intoxicated by either are sucked deeper into boyishness than naught.

Instead of a fiercely compassionate community of men (though this man does exist in some), we see emerging gang violence, drug abuse, alcoholism, absent fathers, and heavy use of pornography among other problems. These all point to one deafening challenge: if we cannot creatively assist males back onto their journey towards manhood, there’s no telling how much havoc our community of grown boys will wreak before all is said and done. There is no question: we must get our males off their “lazy boys” where they view their “play boys” and position them to enter into the realm of selfless, confident manhood. And we need the generations of initiated men gone by to lead us there.

What would our world be like if a community of matured men nurtured this earth and all who live in her?

Steward of Creation: A Prayer-Poem

In Darkness I clutch a created thing
With sense that to it I’ve been given
To watch and heed and shelter growth
No tiny task to bear

“Now, steward them all and show dominion”
I hear with mix-ed troubled mind
So onto the search for God’s intentions
A blueprint for His care

“You’ll steward the whole of the fishy sea”
Please know they breathe the water in
So care for it and heed my will:
A swarm of scaly things

“You’ll steward the feathery flocks of birds
for through their likeness I’ll proclaim
“My Son, I’m pleased, they’ll heed your words”
my Holy Spirit sings

“You’ll steward the tiny creeping things”
Their grassy blades: cathedral walls
I do not want you harming them
They fertilize my soil

“For eating and tasting, I give most trees”
That bear a barkened fruity seed
And to the lowly animals
Greens grown without your toil

So, watching and heeding please shelter growth
And with your faith all things will bloom
And one more thing, I want more you’s
My family multiply

 

 

The edges and bordering lines of Eden
Expand across this vista’ed wood
It’s good, the wood, and all I’ve made
Now rest with me tonight

I’m watching you drift into peaceful rest
And soon the sun will westward set
And, here’s one law to rule our wood
One tree, you see: restricted.

For eating its fruit in the cool of the day
Might bring you worlds of bursting light
But death to you its pulp imparts
The consequence: evicted.

 

 

Arising we from our Sabbath’s sleep
With moon afresh on Eden’s camp
And flushed in mind we go in haste,
to shady midnight oak.

Dreaming or waking I am not sure
And into shadowed branches stare
Entranced on fruits of false desire
Against the words He spoke.

 

 

In darkness I clutch a created thing
With sense that I’ve, to It, been giv’n
To serve and bow below the earth
Its hollowed eyes ensnare.

It’s curves resemble fish and wood
Alive but dead like birds and bugs
Into their bark we pour our lust
A heavy yoke to bear.

In turning disdain we’re forced to dance
While steps betray our deepest song
A power, which like a puppeteer
Eliminates our worth.

This fruit, which seemed so opportune
Its poison suffocates our life
From crusted arid selfish clay
Turns us against our earth.

 

 

In Darkness I clutch uncreated things
Below the stormy waters where
The grainy cruciform will lead
Enticing me to care

I’m thrust beneath the torrent rains
My selfish self-demise
Where all intended evil there
Is changed by Holy leaven.

How could this fruit bring us such ruin?
Oh, Lord your good salvation bring
Re-darken our faith to return to the place
Where, “On earth as it is now in heaven.”

Back to “Sacred Earth”

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 3

The image of the church as Christ’s bride contains striking implications.  It smacks of purity, chosen-ness, beloved-ness, togetherness, mutual reverence, and more.

Take for example:

Ephesians 5:31 “Husbands love your wives just as Christ  loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word…This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

With all my newfound responsibilities, the 30 minute devotional was bankrupt for me.  I had to discover a new way.  So, along side my then 3 years working with students in the areas of mercy and justice and global community, I enrolled in an academy for spirituality and encountered the thinking of Father Adrian van Kaam. Father Adrian was set to graduate from his Roman Catholic seminary six months prior to the Nazi occupation of his home in Denmark.  He spent seven long and hungry months sheltering and caring for terrified Christians, Jews, and Atheists from all walks of life.  That experience convinced him that our world needed and would need a practical spirituality that translated across many barriers for the sake of the gospel and rooted in the ancient 2000 year old Christian tradition.

For missionaries to North America and for Community Developers, life is never easy.  They have been called into some of the deepest issues possible.  And in the darkest alleyways they gain the blessed realization that God was there first. He has been working on the toughest issues long before they arrived.  And it is with him there that they find our motivation, the relationship, and the the willingness to go on.  Yet, what happens when they cannot sense him?  What happens when they feel that he has abandoned them? How does a missionary avoid spiritual burnout? How does a Community Developer tap into a holistic spiritual life, rather than simply trying to beef up his or her life of devotions?  How can we tap into the 2000 years of spiritual teaching that widens our view from isolated practices to a whole-life spirituality that leads us back to a quiet time like a thirsty deer to abundant streams?  How can we say “yes” to the bridegroom who is calling his beloved even in the ugliest of moments? That’s what this blog is about.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 2

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

Take for example:

Revelation 21.9 “Then one of the angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”  And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City of Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.”

Like any relationship, like any marriage, intimacy is more than learning about one another. It is about cultivating a life of shared experiences and appreciation for one another in difficult times.   It is no different with God.

Fast-forward three years from my university chapel altar. Still wearing the grad ring, I had now been offered and accepted the wedding ring.   It was perhaps as I was changing a diaper or settling my bank account that reality hit.  I had a wife, a baby, and a real job.  I had taken on an occupation that confronted racism and poverty while preparing students to do just that. It all started to crush me really. The responsibilities of life outweighed a new realization: I could not solve local problems, let alone world issues, with my skills or cleverness. People were too complex.  The human heart was far more stubborn and habit ridden than I realized.  I was more broken that I had realized.  Now ten years out from that night at the university altar, I am saying that it will take my whole life to learn intimacy with God.

Who is the Bride of Christ: Part 1

I began a journey about ten years ago.  It was a spiritual journey that culminated in a quiet moment within my university’s chapel.  I had followed this deep calling in my life that led me to Jesus and to a life devoted to his way and ministry.  I was mastering the spiritual life at break-neck speed.  My devotional life rocked.  I had read through most of the Bible a few times.  And I kind of sneered when my pastor’s wife lamented in one Bible study that it would take her a whole life to learn intimacy with God.  I wondered why I was flying so high.  Perhaps God had greater things in store for me.

So there I was at our university’s chapel altar.  I was kneeling alone late one night. The stained glass windows were dancing with shadows of flickering candles. I was deep in prayer.  On the floor in front of me lay my graduation ring.  A few minutes prior, I had taken it off my finger and set it before the Lord.  Internally I prayed this prayer: Lord let me be married to you.” Somehow over the course of a few years, I had intuited a long-standing Christian image.  Intimacy with the Father was something like a great marriage. It was the height of my early devotional life.  I was on fire.  I loved God and wanted to know him more.

The early Christians, following the lead of Jesus’ parables and through his other teachings, began very early thinking of the church as the bride of Christ.

2 Corinthians 11.1 “I hope you will put up with me in a little foolishness.  Yes, please put up with me!  I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him”

On Sustainability

(So, now, I will continue my posts on the importance of nature in our world today).

We live in a interesting moment of history.  All across the world, religions are awakening to the sanctity of the earth.  It is a global shift that some are calling the “eco-zoic” era.  I like that.  Post-apocalyptic movies like “The Day the Earth Stood Still” are making a field day with this type of thought: The earth can and will sustain herself beyond our mess…whether humans remain a viable species is the question.  Will mother earth wipe out us children because of the way we treat her?

Unfortunately for Christians, we often have a sense that this earth will burn, so why take care of it? By the way, that is a mark of modern Christianity.  The earth in the eyes of the early and Medieval Church was viewed far more as a sacred source of life.  Ever read “Canticle of Brother Sun”?

So the question now is this: can we turn ship?  What will it take to get masses of people to stop trashing the soil and destroying the oceans? There has to be a way.

So let me suggest this: it is not about a change of mind, it is about a change of heart.  This is where vibrant faith steps in. The green movement has already changed our minds in North America. What we need now is a life change. It is the change of a thousands of small decisions on the part of millions of people.  It is a change that everyone must be able to make.  A sustainable lifestyle for millions will only spring from a deep reverence for the earth and for all who live upon it.  It must not be based in guilt or fear but love. It can be based in Christian scripture, and we can find the way in Jesus’ heart.  This must be the core of our curriculum, not another top ten list of things to do to save the earth.

A good place to start: go spend some time with a few good friends in a park…

Spiritual Reflection for a Global World: Finale

Our world is full of disaster and conflict.  Yet, somehow, God never-ceasingly fills our disaster and conflict with good things and good words.  It is our job to become people who can see and hear them.

I will leave behind now, my small series on Spiritual Reflection with a last word and the final step.

The last word is this:  even Jesus could not convince the religious elite that their ears and eyes were closed.  We will never convince them either.  Our role is to simply become people who take the space and time to worship, listen, argue, and apply what God gives us.  We are limited creatures.  God made us that way.  So, all we have to do is be faithful to the times that we are given and with the words and deeds that God uses in our everyday experiences to capture our attention.

Finally, after awe, careful and honest listening, and utilizing our logic, we enter into the double movement of “Affirmation and Application”.   Now, rather than refusing to accept our divine call (which emerges into our consciousness through formational attention), we can pivot from our fractured past into a future lived under God’s providing hand.  Now, we can move to the “Application of our Yes”.  We no longer have to live in worry. With our past words and deeds, we have not disobediently undone the promise of blessing in our life by the accumulation of disobedience.  We can firmly and gently enter into the implementation of our unique-communal life call inwardly confirmed that we are walking the path toward our destiny.  Like I mentioned before, this process of Spiritual Reflection for large decisions might last months, sometimes years; or, for small disclosures the process might last seconds or minutes.  Life sometimes demands split-second reflection.

Whatever the case, in order to live a life fully awakened to the revelation of our life call and the reality of its obstacles, we must build enduring spiritual eyes and ears.  Then, with the appraisal process integrated and digested into the core of our spirits, we “will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom 12.2).